THE KENNEL Club said today that the reason why the French Bulldog had been removed from the high-profile list was that there was evidence that ‘a reasonable proportion’ of the dogs being shown were not severely affected by conditions from which the breed is known to suffer.

One of the criteria for removal, it said, was ‘a framework that in the long term will provide breeds with demonstrable evidence of breed health improvement’.

Earlier the KC said that although the breed was ‘predisposed to conformational health and welfare problems’, those involved in the breed health scheme had shown that with ‘responsible ownership, considerate breeding, transparency of information and accessibility of education and advice to owners’ French Bulldogs could live ‘long, happy, healthy lives’.

Since the announcement was made there has been speculation concerning the criteria for removal from the high-profile list, and whether working actively to tackle health problems – whether successful or not – was in itself enough.

The KC told DOG WORLD other criteria for removal were: “The French Bulldog health assessment covers all of the listed visible conditions on Breed Watch and evidence has been presented to show that a reasonable proportion of the show population is not severely affected by these conditions. Furthermore, the willingness of breed representatives to involve the pet population of French Bulldogs with the visible health assessments and other ongoing health projects has given us assurance that the breed representatives are actively working to safeguard the future health of the breed.

“We will continue to work closely with French Bulldog representatives to support projects for health testing of both visible and hereditary conditions as well as ensuring that the requirements in place as part of the category two breed watch classification are fulfilled.”

The decision to remove the French Bulldog from the list was made following a recommendation from the KC’s Dog Health Group, which has been following the health of the breed and discussing the health programmes with the breed health co-ordinator Penny Rankine-Parsons.

“While the breed welcomes the KC’s acknowledgement of the work we are doing with health we also realise that we must continue to strive even harder and continue to push forward to achieve the best we can for our breed,” she said.

“Being a high-profile breed has never been the issue; we started our health scheme before this. The scheme is designed to educate the owner and breeder to recognise any health issues that their dog may have prior to breeding, giving them the knowledge which could influence the choice of mate or indeed if the dog is suitable to breed from at all.

“The research that the breed is involved with into brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome is vital to the future of the breed. This research is a win-win situation for us as whatever its findings it will surely have far-reaching consequences for all brachycephalics. As breed health representative I’m eager to receive any guidance that vets can offer us. As a breed we know it will take some years of careful selection to achieve our goals, but we have made a good start with our health initiatives and we are collecting valuable health data; for that the breed should be commended.

“We also acknowledge that in the show ring much depends on the judges, and this is a vital area where we need KC support in judges re-education and I anticipate that this support will be forthcoming. The French Bulldog Club of England is very proactive and is committed to make improvements in all areas, but we cannot do this overnight. The club, with the support of the other French Bulldog clubs, will continue to guide the breed in the right direction.

“One final comment I would like to make is thatitis easy for those out there who do not agree with our downgrading from the high-profile list to criticise, but they are too far removed from the difficulties of the actual tasks that we and many other breeds face to really proffer an opinion; in my world actions, however small, speak louder than words.”

The KC’s high-profile breed co-ordinator, Charlotte McNamara, is now a committee member of the French Bulldog Club of England. Club secretary Mrs Rankine-Parsons said Miss McNamara had been a club member for about two years and committee member since the annual meeting earlier this year.

“I hope people won’t think our breed has been removed from the list because of Charlotte,” Mrs Rankine-Parsons said. “We started our efforts towards improving the health of the breed long before she was on the scene, and she has had no involvement in our health schemes.

“As the KC’s high-profile breed co-ordinator she has advised and guided us through the removal process but that is the extent of her involvement and is no more than what she would do for any other breed.”

Miss McNamara is known as a breeder and exhibitor of Pekingese, but has owned French Bulldogs for several years too.

KC secretary Caroline Kisko said that Mrs Rankine-Parsons and others had been ‘consistently and comprehensively managing’ health concerns within the breed.

“The French Bulldog representatives have demonstrated to the KC an improvement in the visible health of the showing population and provided detailed information of a long- and short-term health and welfare strategy to ensure they safeguard the future of the breed,” she said.

“What we want to see is improvements, which are now clearly visible in the show population, across the breed as a whole. Show dogs are seen as being the leaders in breeding, and the improvements we have seen in dogs competing in the show ring will undoubtedly have an effect on the health of non-show dogs.

“Furthermore, due to the hard work of the French Bulldog breed clubs and breeders, puppy buyers are more informed than ever before and are encouraged to join in with health initiatives. Higher numbers of French Bulldogs in the show ring will mean the more we can help make a difference to the health of the breed as a whole.

“I would like to commend the dedication, passion and commitment of the French Bulldog owners and exhibitors who have participated in health testing for both visible and hereditary conditions. The French Bulldog is a breed pre-disposed to conformational health and welfare concerns, however those who have been involved in the breed health scheme have demonstrated that with responsible ownership, considerate breeding, transparency of information and accessibility of education and advice to owners, French Bulldogs can live long, happy, healthy lives.”

There are now 13 breeds which remain on the KC’s high-profile list: the Basset Hound, Bloodhound, Bulldog. Chow Chow, Clumber Spaniel, Dogue de Bordeaux, German Shepherd Dog, Mastiff, Neapolitan Mastiff, Pekingese, Pug, St Bernard and Shar-Pei. Two of these breeds, the Mastiff and Bulldog, failed their vet check at Midland Counties last weekend.

On its website the Dog Advisory Council (DAC) congratulated the French Bulldog Club, saying: “This change is a reward for the dedicated hard work the club has done to improve the health of the breed. While not all problems have yet been solved, the breed in the UK is clearly under very good eldership…”

DOG WORLD contacted DAC chairman Sheila Crispin but was told the council would not be making an official comment on the subject to the paper.

A spokesman for the Canine Alliance said it was delighted for the French Bulldog breed that it had been removed from the list, and applauded the breed clubs and breeders in their initiative.

“But we still maintain that victimising a handful of breeds for unfair treatment is not the way to improve the health of pedigree dogs across the board and that the high-profile breed list should not exist,” he said.
“Some of the high profile breeds have been unsuccessful in getting the KC to give them clear directions as to what was required for a breed to be removed so now seems the perfect time to explain in detail, with facts and figures, exactly what is necessary for a breed to be removed from the high profile list.”

The removal means that French Bulldog bests of breed or potential champion dogs will no longer be subject to a veterinary health check at championship shows and the breed has now been moved to category two of the KC’s breed watch system.

Under category two of the scheme, the French Bulldog breed health co-ordinator will still be required to submit a ‘comprehensive’ annual breed health report and judges must submit mandatory health monitoring forms after each appointment.

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